Putin Ally Warns Russia May Use Concentration Camps for Enemies, 'No Mercy'

Karen Shakhnazarov, a Russian filmmaker and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, warned that Russia may use concentration camps and severe forms of punishment for those who oppose the pro-war rhetoric.

An increasing number of Russian people have shown opposition to Russia's war with Ukraine launched by President Vladimir Putin, and many have fled Russia entirely to escape punishment. Those who have not fled, Shakhnazarov said, could face severe consequences.

Speaking on the Rossiya 1 television channel, the filmmaker warned that opponents of the war could face punishments as serious as concentration camps and sterilization.

"The opponents of letter Z must understand that if they are counting on mercy, no, there will be no mercy for them," he said. "It's all become very serious, in [this] case it means concentration camps, re-education, sterilization. This is very serious."

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the State
Filmmaker Karen Shakhnazarov warned that opponents of the war in Russia could be punished with concentration camps and sterilization on Russian TV. In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) listens to film director Karen Shakhnazarov (R) during the State Awards Ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on November 27, 2018. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

According to The Times, he later claimed that his comments were taken out of context, but reportedly did not elaborate.

Putin has long talked about "purifying" the Russian state. In March, the Russian president warned in a televised address, "The West will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on traitors... to divide our society... to strive to achieve its aim. And there is one aim—the destruction of Russia." He then went on to call for a "self-purification" of the nation.

Anne Applebaum, staff writer at The Atlantic, wrote on Twitter after the address, "Putin's call for a 'self-purification' of Russian society can have only one intention: To remind Russians of Stalin and his 'purges.' He wants them to be haunted by dark, ancestral memories, to remember their grandparents' stories and to be petrified with fear."

Shakhnazarov's comments come just a week before Russia's Victory Day parade on Red Square.

Victory Day commemorates Russia's public celebration of the end of World War II, and the rhetoric recently from Putin and other officials have pushed similarities between Ukraine and Nazi Germany.

Russia has recently claimed that Israeli mercenaries are fighting alongside Ukraine, and Moscow has stated that it is proof of "the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday likened Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, to Hitler.

"The fact that Zelensky is Jewish does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine," Lavrov said during an interview with Zona Bianca, an Italian news channel. "I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood."

Putin has already shown what he can do to those who oppose him, as opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to nine years in a maximum-security prison on fraud charges and critics claimed Navalny's sentence was a warning to others.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.